links


26
Aug 21

Back to the year 1921

Let us once again go back in time, to see if anything interesting was in the paper 100 years ago today. And there’s … not a lot … that captures our eye these years hence. Sometimes a slow news day here is matched by a slow news day then. It isn’t exactly the planets aligning, but it could seem close enough if you wanted to think that way. The better read is that probably no one feels like doing more than necessary in the middle of an August heat wave.

So to quickly gloss over the day’s lead story from the August 26, 1921 edition of The Birmingham News

That’s the West Virginia Mine Wars, a series of strikes, skirmishes, kerfuffles and outright battles that ranged through the 1910s and early 1920s. At the first of August a police chief and his deputy were killed by hired gun thugs when they were going to trial for a violent shootout earlier in the year. That was a tipping point. For weeks miners started arming themselves, and moved to just outside the state capitol. The firing was just starting again when they put this paper together. Thousands of union miners and another few thousand police offers, militia and others were clashing. President Harding was tinkering with the idea of martial law. National Guard were standing ready to be shipped in. Today they call it the Battle of Blair Mountain, which ended on September 2nd, and it claimed about 130 lives. It wound up being a defeat for the miners, and union membership plummeted. Ultimately, the mine owners success helped lead to a larger, stronger movement in many other industries. This was nearing the end of the West Virginia violence. Within the next decade, though, the unrest and violence spilled over into eastern Kentucky.

Anyway, inside the paper … a very vague ad on page three.

This makes sense if you are of the time. Lots of ads, across the country. You’re meant to see it as a seal of approval.

Text of another ad, from elsewhere at about that same time reads, “Like all thoroughbreds the Pup is inclined to be exclusive. He will talk for only one clothing store in each city. And that’s got to be a good one. He symbolizes the live successful merchant — and he is always on the job.”

That we don’t have more in this ad is likely a teaser. Maybe the Pup was just coming into the market.

Knowing, as we do, what was to come in just a generation, this was probably a good idea.

That was page four. She was launched on the first of September. The next month a new treaty went into effect, so the battleship was never actually completed. The Washington was sunk in late 1924 as gunnery practice. It took several days to sink her, and the analysts decided the armor was inadequate.

This standalone photograph is on page 10.

You won’t be surprised to learn that there are people who track presidential pets.

This advertisement really strikes a tone, doesn’t it?

MOTHER!

This is an interesting ad during Prohibition.

These days that address is a parking lot.

I’m not saying these jokes are funny, but on a full page of comics, these are perhaps the best two for modern eyes.

This was a great downtown store. A.B. Loveman’s Dry Goods Emporium was founded in 1887 and soon became the Loveman, Joseph & Loeb when Moses Joseph and Emil Loeb came on board.

When you saw this ad in your 1921 paper, you were reading about the largest, most magnificent department store south of the Ohio River. Most of the store destroyed by fire in 1934, but they rebuilt on the same location. They expanded across town and the state, until they went bankrupt in 1979 and closed the next year.

Today, the beautiful old store is still for kids, even those bursting through the roof. The Loveman’s building is home to the state-of-the-art McWane Center.

It is a terrific museum.

And that’s it for today, and a century ago. Come back tomorrow, for more tomorrow, and probably some history that’s a bit more recent.


29
Jul 21

Links of the day

We did it last week, and that went well, so let’s return to the simple link post in a good long while. So let’s do that. Here are a few items that have been in my browser(s) today.

This story is 1.3 million years in the making.

Archaeologists in Morocco have announced the discovery of North Africa’s oldest Stone Age hand-axe manufacturing site, dating back 1.3 million years, an international team reported on Wednesday.

The find pushes back by hundreds of thousands of years the start date in North Africa of the Acheulian stone tool industry associated with a key human ancestor, Homo erectus, researchers on the team told journalists in Rabat.

[…]

Before the find, the presence in Morocco of the Acheulian stone tool industry was thought to date back 700,000 years.

The dating is something there, isn’t it? It almost doubles the local timeline. If you aren’t paying attention to archeology news, that seems improbable, 1.3 million years. But not too long ago a team led by scholars from Stony Brook and Rutgers, pushed the timeline in Kenya back to 3.3 million years and Australopithecus afarensis or Kenyanthropus platyops.

The use of the word “industry” in that Al Jazeera story, the first one, also stands out.

It’s one thing to use a rock, but to make it into something useful — something we’d later recognize — is another. And then! Then, to be able to teach that skill to others, so that they can make more axes or spears or knives, maybe in exchange for something else, I suppose that’s industry. That’s civilization. And this one is apparently 1.3 million years old.

I’m sure you saw the new CDC guidance, which is still somewhat muddled. Maybe before we’re through the second year of the pandemic they’ll get their health and crisis comms in order …

Anyway, they’re recommending masks, even for the vaccinated (yes, even for you) if you live in a place where the Covid case load is rated as “substantial” or “high.” Really this is an actuarial exercise, with an element of risk assessment to it. Let’s all assume we have some understanding of percentages and risk aversion and game theory — sorta the same way we decide whether we’re going to drive over the speed limit speed the next time we go somewhere. It’d probably just be safer to driver more carefully every time. Same with masks!

Anyway, substantial and high are what you’re concerned with in NPR’s handy little tool. Just type in your county and you’ll get a read on the local happenings.

The change to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s masking guidelines came after pressure from many outside experts. The CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said in a news briefing that new evidence showed delta was more transmissible than previously understood.

“This was not a decision that was taken lightly,” Walensky said. She noted that new data from outbreak investigations show that, rarely, vaccinated people can still get infected and spread the virus to others.

“On rare occasions, some vaccinated people infected with the delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and spread the virus to others,” she told reporters when announcing the new guidelines. “This new science is worrisome and, unfortunately, warrants an update to our recommendations.”

(Every county I’ve ever lived in, ever, is in one of those two categories right now.)

Wear a mask.

This is one of those local women dominates at Olympics stories.

They have trained together, raced together, wept together. Now they will swim together – in adjacent lanes – for an Olympic medal.

Bloomington workout partners Annie Lazor and Lilly King advanced Thursday morning to the final of the 200-meter breaststroke at Tokyo. They will be underdogs against South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker, who challenged the world record in heats and semifinals.

[…]

“It’s going to be awesome, this is what we have been training for the whole time we’ve been training together,” King said. “So I’m really excited.”

[…]

Last month’s Olympic Trials was the first meet for Lazor since her father, David Lazor, died April 25. He was 61.

“The last couple of months I’ve been going through trying to achieve the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me while going through the worst thing that’s ever happened to me,” Lazor said in Omaha, Nebraska.

“Sometimes my heart, for the first few weeks, it felt like I was choosing grief that day or choosing swimming that day. There was no in-between.”

Update: How cool is this?

Used to be that the athletic performance was what I watched for. Now it’s just the reactions after the events, the culmination of all that work, and the joyous celebrations that come from people who’ve devoted themselves to something so difficult. I guess that means I’m getting older.

Just not 1.3 million years old. Yet.


21
Jul 21

Links of the day

I was looking at the categories I use on this humble little blog — and thank you, once more, for visiting it — and I realized I haven’t done a simple link post in a good long while. So let’s do that. Here are a few items that have been in my browser(s) today.

This story has been making the rounds today. And I bet it will for a few more days. A former co-worker of mine wrote it. The piece is inspired by this medical professional’s Facebook post. It’s one part sad and one part resigned and manages to suggest you take care of yourself, without sounding at all saying “cluck-cluck-cluck.” You can pretty much imagine from there. But if you can’t:

“A few days later when I call time of death,” continued Cobia on Facebook, “I hug their family members and I tell them the best way to honor their loved one is to go get vaccinated and encourage everyone they know to do the same.”

“They cry. And they tell me they didn’t know. They thought it was a hoax. They thought it was political. They thought because they had a certain blood type or a certain skin color they wouldn’t get as sick. They thought it was ‘just the flu’. But they were wrong. And they wish they could go back. But they can’t. So they thank me and they go get the vaccine. And I go back to my office, write their death note, and say a small prayer that this loss will save more lives.”

More than 11,400 Alabamians have died of COVID so far, but midway through 2021, caring for COVID patients is a different story than it was in the beginning. Cobia said it’s different mentally and emotionally to care for someone who could have prevented their disease but chose not to.

“You kind of go into it thinking, ‘Okay, I’m not going to feel bad for this person, because they make their own choice,'” Cobia said. “But then you actually see them, you see them face to face, and it really changes your whole perspective, because they’re still just a person that thinks that they made the best decision that they could with the information that they have, and all the misinformation that’s out there.”

All of those that allowed a global health crisis to be politicized, will have this as an everlasting shame. That we could not curtail, could not educate against and could not overcome disinformation, will be the shame that belongs to the rest of us.

Here’s a story out of Mississippi where Deion Jackson is cultivating his hard-nosed coach with a heart of gold identity. They’re doing media days at Jackson State and the second year man made waves insisting the media call him coach. And … there was another story, but it got drowned out by the nomenclature kerfuffle. This one almost did, too:

A Clarion Ledger reporter was barred from covering the Jackson State football team at Southwestern Athletic Conference Media Day on Tuesday, one day after his story was published on a domestic violence charge against the highest-ranked high school recruit in program history.

Rashad Milligan was blocked by two JSU officials from covering coach Deion Sanders’ program in Birmingham, Alabama.

Sanders did not want Milligan interviewing JSU players and coaches, JSU director of internal football operations LaToya Williams told Milligan.

The incident occurred one day after Milligan reported on a July 1 court filing stating that Quaydarius Davis, an incoming four-star wide receiver from Dallas, was expected to plead guilty on a charge of “assault causes bodily injury family violence,” a misdemeanor in Texas, stemming from an incident in March.

[…]

“A Clarion Ledger reporter was punished for simply doing his job,” Clarion Ledger Executive Editor Marlon A. Walker said. “The decision to interfere with a working journalist not only is disappointing but also intolerable.”

Walker is correct, but fighting uphill and, I suspect, he’s well aware of that.

I’ve been saying for more than a decade now, in newsrooms and classrooms and at academic conferences, that sports reporters are in a precarious position because athletic programs now understand how they control the information flow. A coach will defend a player, or coaching staff, or their own decisions. And if a beat reporter asks a question that’s too adversarial, the reporter just might get kicked out of practice, frozen out from interviews or outright banned.

Urban Meyer did it in 2010 at Florida, targeting a reporter who wrote copy about some players and the coach didn’t care for that. My alma mater, Auburn, did it as a direct fan appeal in response to some truly bad copy. Kentucky’s athletic department, famously blocked media for approaching athletes directly. (This is essentially an industry standard now among collegiate athletes. You go through the SIDs to talk to players.) Steve Spurrier did it, too, in 2011 at South Carolina, kicking out a reporter who questioned his general program tactics. Another time Spurrier gave grief to reporters who didn’t rise to the defense of their colleagues in the Meyer dispute.

All of these instances have some reasonable explanation. Spurrier, like Mike Gundy’s “I’m a man! I’m 40!” speech is a wag-the-dog moment. (Today that rant is almost 14 years old, by the way.) Do something outlandish enough and you can reset the agenda. Focus everyone on the coach, rather than a specific player. The Auburn instance I mention was to attempt to bat down some stories that were, let’s say, calculated. They were poorly sourced and badly executed hit pieces is what I’m saying. That particular writer limped away in disgrace. Meyer, meanwhile, was just being Meyer.

The thing they all have in common is the timing. These, and many other instances like them from across the sports landscape, took place just as programs were starting to realize they could leverage their own equipment, their own production values, their own corner of the Internet, their own social media and, crucially, their own fanbase, to tell their story. Why do you even need a sports media middle man?

Auburn is a wonderful exemplar. As media outlets began contracting, the university started hiring the sports beat reporters that used to cover them. Now you’ve got talented writers with both institutional history and, for fans, names with a bit of gravitas. Perhaps others have done the same.

Meantime, whatever beat reporters that get sent over to the sports media availability have to consider if what they wrote yesterday, what they’ve been working on for the last few weeks, or what they are planning on asking about today, gets them voted off the island. At some point, they have to file by deadline. It’s a symbiotic relationship, right up until the point that, say, a reporter files a story about a player’s past that doesn’t set well with a coach or, an athletic director. Now that reporter is no longer welcome. Now it’s a problem. But only for the reporter and his or her news outlet. Not the team. They’ve got cameras and writers and their fans know where to go to get their fandom.

Curiously, fans generally only want to read the good stuff about their program anyway. Anything else, to fans, is a feeble attempt at distraction or a story with an obvious agenda or bias. The only exception to that is when the fans are ready for a new coach. Then the troubling stories fit into satisfying layer of confirmation bias. “I always knew he was dirty, incompetent, morally uncouth and didn’t like his neighbor’s dogs.”

The programs control their own story because they have succeeded in controlling the access and the tools and fans and all of the rest came along to let them do something useful with it. It’s such an obvious concern that many people, even some sports scholars I’ve talked with about it, don’t really see it.

Of course, you could say, it’s just sports. Let the team play and let me cheer and tell me the final score. All well and true. Except, it isn’t always just sports, is it? Not always:

The highest-rated football commitment out of high school in Jackson State football history has a court hearing scheduled for Tuesday to charges that he hit a woman in March, according to documents obtained by the Clarion Ledger.

Quaydarius Davis, 18, is charged with “assault causes bodily injury family violence,” a misdemeanor in Texas, according to court filings.

[…]

A few months ago, Davis was headed to Kansas.

Then, on March 24, a friend of the woman made a now-deleted social media post with two photos of a woman in a hospital gown with a cut on her lip where one of her eyes appeared to be swollen shut, according to the Dallas Morning News.

On March 26, Kansas cut ties with Davis nearly a month after he signed his National Letter of Intent to play for the Jayhawks, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.

“Based on the information we were able to gather KU football has terminated the recruitment of this individual and communicated to him that he will no longer be recruited to play football at the University of Kansas,” the spokesperson wrote, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal. “While we do not know the full details of what occurred in this instance, we were able to learn enough information and decide that it is in the best interest of Kansas football that we separate from this individual. We condemn violence of any kind against women.

This is the part where a person that follows college sports a little bit says … “Kansas didn’t want him?”

It isn’t always about sports. But if you’re a beat writer and you know the coach you cover might be a vindictive sort, that gives you a bit of pause. It shouldn’t, and every good reporter worth their salt would tell you this would make them press a bit harder, but how do you do that without access?

The older I get the more I find it is actually less and less about the sport itself. There’s a poem in there somewhere.

Here’s some stuff I pulled together on the work podcast. Go listen to really smart people tell me about educating little people:

Be sure to come back tomorrow. There will be something of value here. And I have until tomorrow to figure out what that will be.


7
Jan 21

Sing and sing and sing and sing

I finished reading Jon Meacham’s Songs of America. Yes, Tim McGraw is listed as a co-author. He did contribute some sidebars. They were included in the book. For the most part it wasn’t clear why. Meacham doesn’t need the help with history, and maybe twice McGraw contributed something to our understanding of the music. (And he’s certainly capable of doing that, but it didn’t really pay off here.

It was a lot more like the guy at the next table over just offering his opinion on a song you just played him. Maybe he knows it well. Maybe it sparks a memory from long ago. Maybe he’s hearing it for the first time. And he figures, well, since you’re talking about it and played it for him, he should probably offer a paragraph or two of thoughts on the matter.

And that’s what Tim McGraw did. I wondered how this arrangement came to be. It’s Jon Meacham. Which kinda diminishes McGraw, who has three Grammy wins and 17 other nominations among his other honors. He knows music, this is not a matter of dispute. He’s apparently written five other books, and one of those was a bestseller. But here, why was he here if a few sidebars was all he was going to contribute.

And then, at the end, they mention it. They are neighbors.

Anyway, it was an interesting book. You’re going to learn about songs you know. You’re going to discover important songs you haven’t even heard of before. Here are two little excerpts, from Meacham.

Susan B. Anthony had gone down to vote in the 1872 Grant-Greeley election. She was arrested and taken before a federal judge. The judge asked her if she had anything to say after her conviction for … voting.

Ward Hunt was on the U.S. Supreme Court. History doesn’t remember him especially well. He didn’t let her testify, read aloud his pre-written opinion, told the jury how to vote and immediately overturned motions for appeals. Anthony was charged with a fine. She told the judge she would never pay. She never did. Probably you’ve never heard of Judge. Hunt. Everyone learns about Susan B. Anthony, even if only a bit, in grade school.

Just go ahead and play this video while you read the text in next image.

In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused Marian Anderson’s participation in a concert at Constitution Hall under a “white performers-only” policy. Ultimately, a lot of DAR members left the organization, including Eleanor Roosevelt who would get the ball rolling for this Easter concert in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The contralto was in full force, a global star. No one knows how many thousands or millions listened on the radio, but one of the estimated 75,000 there in person was said to be 10-year-old Martin Luther King. (I’ve seen one reference on this, but I am struggling to find more.) He’d speak in front of Lincoln 24 years later, of course. She sang from the same spot that day, too.

Senator Mike Braun is from Indiana, and I have a question for him and the others who found themselves in this rickety position this week regarding the cynical political pandering of which he was a part. This was his message last week, and for quite some time:

And then yesterday happened — prior to which he was face-to-face with people in a way that rarely happens and he formalized his Arizona objection — but after the deadly assault, he wrote this:

So, senator, do us all a favor and explain this. You were certain, prior to the seditious raid on the U.S. Capitol, that this objection was something that needed to be done. Now, not at all. You withdrew your objection to the formal vote certification. So which is it, senator? Did you feel the wind change? Or are you that easily persuadable?

And which, in your estimation, is a better attribute for a United States senator?


8
Dec 20

Things you should and shouldn’t do

Woke up tired. I’ve been waking up tired. And by tired I mean, tired. Anyone else doing that lately?

Anyone else grimly making jokes about why that may be happening? It’s not like I’m not getting six or seven or even eight hours of sleep — you should do that. There must be something else to it, right?

So I googled it — you should never do this — and it apparently has a technical term. It’s called “fa-teag-way.” It must be Italian.

Turns out, if you read the web — you should skeptically do this — that there are so many possibilities for it as to make you think that it’s probably none of them, or beyond your ability to successfully isolated and test the variables. Changing your “sleep environment” is no easy thing, after all.

“Chances are,” Healthline says, “your morning grogginess is just sleep inertia, which is a normal part of the waking process. Your brain typically doesn’t instantly wake up after sleeping. It transitions gradually to a wakeful state.”

So I search for some scientific documentation — you should always do this — on “sleep inertia.” Take it away, Dr. Lynn Marie Trotti in the National Institutes of Health journal Sleep Medicine Reviews:

The transition from sleep to wake is marked by sleep inertia, a distinct state that is measurably different from wakefulness and manifests as performance impairments and sleepiness. Although the precise substrate of sleep inertia is unknown, electroencephalographic, evoked potential, and neuroimaging studies suggest the persistence of some features of sleep beyond the point of awakening. Forced desynchrony studies have demonstrated that sleep inertia impacts cognition differently than do homeostatic and circadian drives and that sleep inertia is most intense during awakenings from the biological night. Recovery sleep after sleep deprivation also amplifies sleep inertia, although the effects of deep sleep vary based on task and timing.

It’s an interesting paper. Probably I’m just groggy.

Completely neglected the cats yesterday. Not in real life, mind you, but in this mediated space. The cats are great. Happy and snoozing and bathing and eating and annoying us at all the wrong times, knowing they can solve that problem by being cute and cuddly for 90 seconds.

Here’s Poseidon catching a nap on the stovetop cover.

He loves the radiant heat from the stove eyes. The other night he jumped up too soon and got a little warm. He jumped up and stepped a little too close and hoped off quickly, all before I could cover the distance. His cat-like reflexes served him well, and he was fine. And it hasn’t dissuaded him from one of his favorite napping places. But maybe he’ll learn to wait for the cover to get put back into plact.

And this is Phoebe, who was caught playing on the computer again.

She was googling cats. You should never do that.